Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Say Hello to my Little Friend

Thanks to the magic carpet known as Craigslist, this old Harmony H802 short-scale "Student Electric Model" has moved from a local 15-year-old's home to ours. When I saw the picture that just screamed 60's retro, I warmed up immediately to this quirky rascal. The large "Woody Woodpecker" headstock has those lovely vintage ivory-colored tuning keys, but seems pretty large in relation to what looks like a 3/4 scale body. The pickguard is so huge it looks like it ate Cleveland, but it's got a lot of character. The orange sunburst finish (what's left of it, anyway) says, "I'm ready to rumble!" The tone control doesn't do anything, and I think you just keep the volume at 10. Simple. Two tiny slide switches turn the single-coil "Gifmen" pickups on. The bridge pickup or its switch doesn't work, but one is enough. No information found on those pickups; the original Harmonys used DeArmond/Rowe p'ups that were supposed to be very good.
There is good Internet information on the Harmonys, Stellas, Silvertones, and a dozen other brands produced at the two huge factories in Chicago until its closure in 1975, but not much on these produced after 1979 when the Harmony name was highjacked for Asian-made models (this one was produced 1985 - 1987). The original Harmony never copied the Gibson and Fender style leaders exactly (the H19 was REAL close to the Jaguar -- what a honey), and you gotta love their crazy designs like the H14 Bobkat and the far-out Stratotone. How many scrawny teenagers pored over the Sears and Penneys catalogs filled with gaudy color photos of Harmonys that could be theirs for the unattainable sum of $160? Paper routes were manned, and grass was cut, to make it happen: they manufactured 1,000 a day.
I'm itching to take it apart, especially to clean up those pots and look for loose or broken wires, but I've never taken strings off or put them on, and if you don't know what you're doing, harm is what you'll end up doing. Music-shop service/repair costs between what local electricians and plumbers charge, so that's not the way to go.
Until I figure something out, I'll just keep on wasting away in Retroville!


December 2012 update:  I've decided to go full mod, despite the fact that I like its original look so much.  The plan is to create an homage to surf music:   refinish the body in a pearly silver-grey and screen print a splash of hibiscus flowers on it in black, and sand off the headstock to remove the logo and have "Silver Surfer" printed on it.  Then, the local expert shop in Lemoyne will replace the electronics (as soon as they find suitable single-coil pickups) and install flat-wound strings.  Then, of course, I've got to get a reverb unit; I'm thinking the Danelectro Spring King.  A smaller black pickguard, still to be found, will finish the transformation.  Surf City, here I come!


  1. Cool ax man... I'll bet Charlie in Memphis might be willing to help you out... Once you get it fixed up, you can record the bass track and jam to it!

  2. After fooling around a little, my fingers are shredded. Those fat bass strings are so much kinder. The G, B, and high E strings are black and I can't even see them! I wish I had a's hard for an old dog to learn!

  3. Get a Marshall stack and we'll go on the road. Well maybe the sidewalk.

  4. Late update: Full Custom in Lemoyne, PA, reworked the electronics and switches and everything works perfectly. I was wrong about the cost -- they were more than reasonable. The old pickups remain; not easy to replace them. Medium-gauge d'Addario chrome flat-wound strings are easy on the fingers and add to the older sound. I did not proceed with the refinishing after all; sort of wanted to preserve its original look. For a worthless guitar, this one is a charmer. Have a real Fender 100W amp now, with reverb, and it all rocks!